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Smart Home

Google offers up Art Project for art lovers

Google unveils a new tool that lets people use its StreetView interface to explore 17 of the world's most famous art museums.

Portrait of the artist's father by Albrecht Durer.
"Portrait of the Artist's Father" by Albrecht Durer. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Google Street View is going indoors.

Starting today, folks can explore 17 museums around the world using Google's Street View technology, the search giant announced in a blog post. Dubbed Art Project, the initiative lets users view artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the National Gallery in London, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, among others.

When users choose a museum, they can opt to walk through its many halls, or learn more about a particular piece of art with an information pane to the right of the program's interface. According to Google, Art Project has more than 1,000 images of artwork available for detailed exploration. In addition, each museum chose a single artwork in its collection to be photographed in gigapixel resolution, allowing users to see the piece rendered with 7 billion pixels.

"You can zoom in to see Van Gogh's famous brushwork or watch how previously hard-to-see elements of an artwork suddenly become clear--such as the tiny Latin couplet which appears in Hans Holbein the Younger's, 'The Merchant Georg Gisze,'" Google said in its blog post.

To capture the experience of actually being at the museums, Google commissioned a new vehicle it's calling the "trolley." The vehicle moved around the museums and, like its counterparts on the streets, recorded images used to piece together 360-degree views. More than 385 museum rooms are represented.

Google has also included a "Create an Artwork Collection" feature in Art Project, allowing users to save views of artwork they fancy. They can also add comments to the artwork and share them with others.

Going forward, Google plans to add more museums and works of art. Until then, you should have plenty to keep you busy, with all the many pieces across the supported museums.